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Friday, September 24, 2021

Recap: Leaders face off in first federal election debate

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Bill 21, childcare, vaccines, CHSLDs, racism, climate change. Trudeau, O’Toole, Singh and Blanchet clashed over many issues Thursday night in their first face-to-face confrontation ahead of the Sept. 20 election.

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This was the Montreal Gazette’s live coverage of tonight’s federal leaders’ debate in French – the first time all four federal leaders will share a stage. Questions/comments? ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates:

  • Leaders speak to reporters after debate
  • Blanchet says ‘systemic racism’ label is used to bash Quebec
  • Trudeau, Blanchet clash on climate
  • What if it’s another minority government?
  • Trudeau won’t rule out getting involved in a legal battle against Bill 21
  • O’Toole won’t say whether he’d give Quebec $6 billion for childcare
  • Trudeau helps the ‘ultra-rich,’ Singh says
  • Are all party candidates vaccinated? O’Toole doesn’t answer
  • Leaders target Trudeau for calling election amid pandemic
  • 52% of Quebecers say they could change their voting intention by election day, pollster says
  • Singh was targeted by anti-vaxxers in Montreal today
  • Expectations are high for Trudeau, Blanchet: poll
  • Conservatives in the lead as opinion of Trudeau deteriorates: poll
  • In 2019, the Liberals narrowly outpaced the Bloc in Quebec
  • First campaign debate could prove crucial to outcome on Sept. 20
  • Opinion: Lots at stake in federal leaders’ debates
  • Quebec has a federal election shopping list
  • Here’s how to make sure you can vote – and who is running in your riding

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11 p.m.

Over and out

That’s it for tonight.

Thanks for reading.


10:55 p.m.

Missed the debate? Watch it here

You can watch the first federal leaders’ debate on the CPAC site.

It’s available in the original French or in a version dubbed in English.


10:50 p.m.

Leaders speak to reporters after debate

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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10:15 p.m.

Closing statements

The leaders are each given one minute for a closing statement.

Trudeau says his government was there to help Canadians get through the pandemic.

Now, “it’s time to put the pandemic behind us,” he says.

A re-elected Liberal government would do that, while also helping families buy their first homes, creating daycare spots and fighting climate change.

Singh says Trudeau abandoned Canadians.

He urges Canadians to vote NDP, which would take on climate change, finance affordable housing and ensure that the “ultra rich” pay their fair share of taxes.

Blanchet touts the Bloc’s record, saying his party made gains for Quebec over the past two years on health funding, agriculture and the environment.

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Whichever government wins must respect Quebecers’ will, Blanchet says.

O’Toole says only two leaders can form a government.

He says Canadians can choose the same old Trudeau or him – “a new leader with a new approach” who will respect provincial jurisdictions and apply Bill 101 to federally regulated workplaces.


9:55 p.m.

Blanchet says ‘systemic racism’ label is used to bash Quebec

Is there systemic racism against Indigenous people in Quebec?

Blanchet is asked first but doesn’t answer but doesn’t answer.

Instead he says ‘systemic racism’ has been used by the Liberals and NDP to bash Quebec

Singh said Trudeau has made a lot of promises on reconciliation but has made little progress.


9:45 p.m.

Trudeau, Blanchet clash on climate

In the segment on climate change, Blanchet says Trudeau has no credibility on the issue because of his government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

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Trudeau says that the purchase was needed as Canada transitions away from oil – and he takes a shot at Blanchet over the Bloc leader’s support for the exploitation of oil on Anticosti Island.

O’Toole is asked about the members of his party who do not believe in climate change.

The Conservative leader says climate is an important issue and he would reduce emissions even as he increases jobs. He said he supports carbon capture and storage.

He accuses Singh of being “against the workers in the West.”

Singh says Trudeau nor O’Toole are basically two peas in a pod when it comes to climate change.


9:35 a.m.

What if it’s another minority government?

What if no party gets enough seats to form a majority government?

The leaders are asked if they would be in favour of a coalition government committed to not having another election for for years.

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Trudeau says a “clear mandate” is needed so Parliament can move forward on issues like daycare, housing and climate change.

He said Canada has no history of coalition governments.

Blanchet said many Quebecers are OK with a minority government and the Liberal minority government was working.

The Bloc would never participate in a coalition government because its role is not to govern but to “work to advance the interests of Quebecers.”

Trudeau says Canadians are tired of the pandemic and deserve a chance to have a say in how the country emerges.


9:30 p.m.

Topic: pandemic benefits

Singh is asked about business leaders who say they can’t find workers because too many people are getting financial pandemic benefits from the federal government.

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The NDP leader rejects the idea, saying if the Canada Recovery Benefit “stops people from working, I think it’s because we have a wage problem in Canada. ”

Singh said Trudeau wouldn’t have been so generous with pandemic financial benefits had it not been for the NDP.

Trudeau jumps in, accusing Singh of “taking credit for the government’s work.”


9:20 p.m.

Topic: Medical assistance in dying

Blanchet is asked if medical assistance in dying should be allowed for children.

He says a committee should study the issue.

Singh agrees with Blanchet, saying it’s a delicate issue that should not be politicized.

Trudeau says that’s not a question that can be answered in a debate. Canadians should have a say on the issue, he adds.

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9:05 p.m.

Trudeau won’t rule out getting involved in a legal battle against Bill 21

Trudeau is asked about Bill 21, the provincial secularism law that bars some government workers from wearing religious symbols such as the Muslim hijab

Trudeau says he is strongly against the law

And he says he doesn’t rule out the federal government getting involved in a contestation of the law in court.

Blanchet blasts Trudeau, saying the federal government is in effect using Quebecers’ tax money to fight a law that is supported by most Quebecers.

O’Toole says a Conservative government would not oppose Bill 21 in court.

He is asked if he is OK with the fact that Ontario government workers can wear religious symbols, but Quebec government workers can’t.

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In response, O’Toole says “it’s a question of recognizing jurisdiction.”

Singh and Blanchet have a heated exchange over racism.

Blanchet says Singh should apologize to the Bloc MP he called racist last year. Singh shoots back that the MP was flippant about systemic racism in the RCMP.


8:55 p.m.

O’Toole won’t say whether he’d give Quebec $6 billion for childcare

O’Toole is asked if he would allow Quebec to keep the $6 billion that the Trudeau Liberal government has promised the province for child care.

The Conservative repeatedly dodges the question.

He says he “respects Quebec,” saying that under the Conservatives the federal government would help families deal with daycare expenses.

“We have a specific plan for families,” O’Toole says, saying he would “coordinate” with Quebec.

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He says the Conservative plan would help all families, including low-income ones.

Trudeau jumps in to say O’Toole’s plan will not help families who already have subsidized daycare.

The leaders are asked about inflation.

Trudeau says the Liberals would reduce housing and daycare spending.

Singh says he has heard from Montrealers who say rents are too high, and he complains that the Liberals aren’t doing enough to cut cell phone bills.


8:40 p.m.

O’Toole promises ‘stable, predictable’ health funding to provinces

O’Toole says he would call a meeting of provincial premiers in his first 100 days as prime minister to discuss health funding.

He says the Conservatives are promising an “historic” increase in health spending – “stable, predictable funding, without conditions.”

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He drops Premier François Legault’s name, saying he trusts him to spend the health cash responsibly.

Trudeau repeatedly attacks O’Toole, accusing him of wanting a two-tiered health care system.

He refers to it as a health system at “two speeds,” suggesting the Conservative leader wants to privatize part of the health system to help the rich.


8:30 p.m.

Does Canada need national standards for long-term care homes?

Are national standards needed for long-term care homes, where thousands of Quebecers died in the first wave of COVID-19?

Blanchet says it doesn’t make sense for the federal government to bring in national standards, which implies that federal standards would be better than Quebec ones.

He also notes that health care is a provincial jurisdictions.

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And he says more doctors are needed, not more bureaucrats.

Trudeau says he doesn’t want to interfere in Quebec’s jurisdiction.

Instead, he says, he wants to be “partners” with provinces to improve the condition in long-term care centres.

O’Toole says Trudeau is more into paternalism than partnerships.

He says a Conservative government would increase health transfers to the provinces, without strings attached. (That’s what Premier François Legault is demanding.)

Singh says the worst situations were seen in private long-term care centres and that’s why the NDP wants to get rid of them.


8:20 p.m.

Trudeau helps the ‘ultra-rich,’ Singh says

Trudeau is asked about the huge amounts spent by the federal government during the pandemic and the Liberal election promise to spend a lot more if it wins re-election.

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In response, Trudeau says the pandemic spending was necessary to get the country through the crisis and future spending will focus on issues such as daycare, housing and climate change.

Singh takes the opportunity to target Trudeau, saying he is helping “the ultra-rich.” He notes Amazon pays little in taxes.

O’Toole is asked if he can really balance the federal budget without cutting services.

He says services won’t be cut because many Canadians are in crisis. Instead, the Conservatives will increase the economy and gradually scale back pandemic spending.


8:10 p.m.

Are all party candidates vaccinated?

Trudeau attacks O’Toole, saying the Conservative leader should be in favour of things like making vaccinations mandatory for people to take flights and trains.

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The two leaders speak over one another.

Blanchet, who like O’Toole has had COVID-19, asks the other leaders if all of their candidates are vaccinated.

O’Toole doesn’t answer directly.

Trudeau says all Liberal hopefuls have gotten the shot, except for one because of “valid medical reasons.”

Singh confirms all NDP candidates are vaccinated.


8:05 p.m.

Leaders target Trudeau for calling election amid pandemic

Trudeau is asked if Canada should make vaccinations mandatory for all Canadian adults.

No, Trudeau answers. Instead, he favours limiting privileges to those who are unvaccinated.

Blanchet uses the opportunity to complain that Trudeau did not need to hold an election during the pandemic because “Parliament was working” under the Liberal minority government. Instead, Blanchet says, Trudeau is wandering around the country taking selfies at events that don’t respect social distancing guidelines.

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Trudeau’s retort: the Bloc often voted against the Liberal government, meaning it wanted an election. He says an election was needed so the government could move quicker on issues like climate change and housing.

O’Toole was asked why he is against mandatory vaccinations.

In response, O’Toole says vaccines are safe and effective and he encourages all Quebecers to get the shot. He pivots to another topic – was an election necessary? No, it wasn’t, he says.

Singh says vaccinations should be mandatory in the federal civil service but he is not in favour of firing people who don’t get the shot.

O’Toole and Singh return repeatedly to the same theme. They say the election was not necessary and Trudeau was being opportunistic in calling it.

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7:45 p.m.

NDP to release ‘Quebec platform’ tomorrow

Jagmeet Singh will be in Quebec City tomorrow morning to unveil “the NDP Quebec Platform,” the party said in a press release this evening.


7:35 p.m.

Here’s how the federal parties are doing in Quebec, by region

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7:10 p.m.

Protesters greet party leaders as they arrive at TVA studios

Supporters and protesters chant as the various political leaders arrive for the TVA federal leaders’ debate.
Supporters and protesters chant as the various political leaders arrive for the TVA federal leaders’ debate. Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV /AFP via Getty Images

Environmental activists, including members of Greenpeace Quebec and Extinction Rebellion Quebec, as well as protesters from several unions greeted party leaders as they arrived at the TVA studios in downtown Montreal, La Presse Canadienne reports.

Some Liberal, Conservative and Bloc Québécois activists were also there, but in very small numbers due to pandemic rules.


7 p.m.

Leaders arrive at TVA debate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Pierre Karl Péladeau’s son Henri as he arrives at TVA for the debate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Pierre Karl Péladeau’s son Henri as he arrives at TVA for the debate. Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV /AFP via Getty Images
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole greets Pierre Karl Péladeau.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole greets Pierre Karl Péladeau. Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV /AFP via Getty Images
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, accompanied by his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, arrives at debate.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, accompanied by his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, arrives at debate. Photo by CHRISTINNE MUSCHI /REUTERS
Bloc Québécois leader Yves Blanchet, accompanied by his wife Nancy Deziel, arrives at debate.
Bloc Québécois leader Yves Blanchet, accompanied by his wife Nancy Deziel, arrives at debate. Photo by CHRISTINNE MUSCHI /REUTERS

7 p.m.

52% of Quebecers say they could change their voting intention by election day, pollster says

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7 p.m.

Singh was targeted by anti-vaxxers in Montreal today

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6:50 p.m.

Expectations are high for Trudeau, Blanchet in tonight’s TVA debate: poll

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6:50 p.m.

TVA debate played a major role in the 2019 election

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6:35 a.m.

Leaders were welcomed by Quebecor CEO PKP ahead of TVA debate

Pierre Karl Péladeau, chief executive of Quebecor, which controls the network’s owner Groupe TVA, greeted the federal leaders as they walked in, waving with one hand and holding his 14-month-old son in the other, The Canadian Press reports.

Péladeau is a former leader of the Parti Québécois.

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6:35 p.m.

Trudeau and Singh focused on smoked meat and poutine today

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6:35 p.m.

O’Toole says he’ll ‘get Canada’s finances in order’

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6:15 p.m.

Tonight’s debate starts at 8 p.m., with two more on tap next week

Tonight’s two-hour French-language leaders’ debate begins at 8 p.m.

I’ll provide live coverage of the debate here.

Liberal Justin Trudeau, Conservative Erin O’Toole, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh and Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois will take part in a series of face-to-face encounters between two leaders at a time.

The event will be hosted by TVA and will be broadcast and webcast by various sister media outlets in the Quebecor chain.

You can watch the debate via the TVA live feed on the Qub.ca website.

TVA has said the debate will focus on three main themes: the pandemic and the economic recovery; “Canada of tomorrow”; and social policy issues such as the environment, firearms and medical assistance in dying.

Two more debates will be held next week – a French one on Wednesday, Sept. 8, followed by an English one on Thursday, Sept. 9.


6:05 p.m.

Conservatives in the lead as opinion of Justin Trudeau deteriorates: poll

The Conservatives are in the lead, with 41 per cent of Canadians saying their opinion of Liberal Justin Trudeau has deteriorated over the previous week – and 23 per cent saying their opinions of Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh have improved.

Those were among the conclusions of a poll published Tuesday by Léger.

“As of today, this race could go either way,” Léger’s Christian Bourque said.

”The Conservatives need significantly more votes than the Liberals, if they wish to form government. Remember, they lost the 2019 election with 1 per cent more votes.

“But it’s possible: not only are they making a breakthrough in Atlantic Canada, but they also have at least 20 per cent of the share of the vote in Quebec and are within striking distance of the Liberals in Ontario. Another concern for the incumbent Liberals is the strength of the NDP in Ontario and BC, which could cost them seats in both provinces.”

Read the full poll results here.


6 p.m.

In 2019, the Liberals narrowly outpaced the Bloc in Quebec

There are 338 seats in the House of Commons, 78 of which are in Quebec.

Here are the Quebec results of the last election – on Oct. 21, 2019– by party:

  • 35 Liberal
  • 32 Bloc Québécois
  • 10 Conservative
  • 1 NDP

And here are the national results by party

  • 157 Liberal
  • 121 Conservative
  • 32 Bloc Québécois
  • 24 New Democratic Party
  • 1 Independent

6 p.m.

First campaign debate could prove crucial to outcome on Sept. 20

From The Canadian Press:

Two of the four leaders set to face off tonight in the first televised debate of the federal election campaign went out ahead of the event to drum up support.

The French debate on TVA, one of Quebec’s most-watched networks, comes at the midpoint of the campaign and could prove crucial to the outcome on Sept. 20.

Only four leaders — the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau, the Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole, the Bloc Québécois’ Yves-François Blanchet and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh — will take part.

The Green party’s Annamie Paul and the Peoples’ party’s Maxime Bernier were not invited.

The TVA debate was seen as pivotal in the 2019 campaign.

Then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s evasiveness on the issues of abortion and medical assistance in dying was widely seen as halting early Conservative momentum, ultimately enabling Trudeau’s Liberals to eke out a minority win.

The performance of Blanchet, a newcomer to federal politics at the time, was also credited with giving new life to the Bloc, which helped rob Trudeau of a second majority mandate.

Blanchet and O’Toole had no public events in the hours leading up to their debate, which will also be a first for O’Toole as Conservative leader.

Trudeau hit Montreal’s St-Laurent Blvd. around lunchtime, stopping to chat and pose for countless photos with students in frosh-week shirts, shop owners and young families with babies in tow.

He stopped at one point to buy smoked meat sandwiches for his team and latkes for himself. A worker from another business came out to give Trudeau Portuguese custard tarts.

Singh handed out samples of his personal recipe for “Punjabi poutine” from a custom truck that almost didn’t make it after a wheel fell off — something the New Democrats hope doesn’t happen to their campaign in Quebec.

The province in 2011 helped make the NDP the Official Opposition, but in 2019 they lost all but one seat there.

The NDP leader told reporters that his strategy going into the debate was to target Trudeau and the Liberal government’s policies and paint a stark choice for voters.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.


6 p.m.

Opinion: Lots at stake in federal leaders’ debates

“Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has home ice advantage in the first two games of a best-of-three series. Such was the case in 2019, when as new leader of the Bloc he established himself with Quebec voters and raised its wins to 32 seats, from only 10 in 2015.

“There’s a lot at stake for the other three major parties as well. For Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, with 35 of Quebec’s 78 seats, there’s an opportunity to cross the threshold into majority territory of 170 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons. For Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives, they need to hold on to their 10 Quebec seats to seriously aspire to forming government, while Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats hope to grow from their one Quebec seat in Montreal.”

Read the opinion piece by L. Ian MacDonald, editor of Policy Magazine and a former Montreal Gazette national affairs who went on to become a speechwriter for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.


6 p.m.

Election campaign kicked off with good vibes between Trudeau and Legault

One desperately wants to win more seats in Quebec.

The other is the most popular politician in the province, with approval ratings holding steady even after the peak of the pandemic.

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to call a Sept. 20 general election despite a fourth wave of COVID-19, Quebec voters – and nationalists in particular – will be a big part of his bid to form the majority government that eluded him in 2019.

And Premier François Legault — who sits on top of many of those nationalist votes that all the federal parties will be vying for over the 36-day campaign — is part of Trudeau’s equation.

Read our full story, by Philip Authier.


6 p.m.

Legault has a federal election shopping list

In making public what has become a tradition for Quebec premiers — a shopping list of demands in federal election campaigns — Premier François Legault last week resumed his quest to increase the federal share of health care funding in Quebec from 22 per cent to 35 per cent.

Read our full story, by Philip Authier.


6 p.m.

Here’s how to make sure you can vote – and who is running in your riding


ariga@postmedia.com

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